A gemstone, billed as one of the largest gem-quality opals in existence, sold for $143,750 at an auction in Alaska on Sunday.
The opal, nicknamed “Americus Australis”, weighs more than 11,800 carats, according to auction house Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals. It also has a long history.
More recently, it was kept in a linen closet in a home in Big Lake, north of Anchorage, by Fred von Brandt, who mines gold in Alaska and whose family is deeply rooted in the stone trade. gems and rocks.
The opal is larger than a brick and is broken into two pieces, which von Brandt says was a practice used decades ago to prove the quality of gemstones.
Von Brandt said the stone had been in his family since the late 1950s, when his grandfather bought it from an Australian opal dealer named John Altmann.
Von Brandt said the opal was for decades in the care of his father, Guy von Brandt, who decided it had been “locked up long enough, it’s time to put it back into the world and see what interest it can generate”.
“He tasked me with figuring out which direction we wanted to go to part ways with the stone,” von Brandt told The Associated Press.
The family, originally from California, displayed the stone at gem shows for years, until the early 1980s, he said. His father then diversified into furniture and displayed it in his shop. Guy von Brandt eventually moved to Oregon and kept the stone “sort of hidden” for many years, von Brandt said.
Von Brandt said he brought it with him to Alaska more than a year ago as he weighed the best approach for a possible sale. He said he opted for Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals because he thought it would get more attention from the new company than a bigger auction house. The sale is set for Sunday.
Nick Cline, partner and appraisal specialist at Alaska Premier Auctions & Appraisals, said the family had documentation of the opal’s provenance. As part of his research, he contacted Fiona Altmann, granddaughter of John Altmann and managing director of Altmann + Cherny in Sydney, Australia.
Altmann said his grandfather, as part of his business dealings, made regular trips to Europe and the United States.
Altmann said that when Cline emailed her, she was skeptical; the name of the stone, in particular, cast it. But she said she started digging and discovered “something with my grandfather’s handwriting with the picture of the opal with the word ‘Americus Australis’.”
“I know with 100% certainty that their provenance information is 100% accurate” because it matches the information she has, she said.
The auction house said the stone was discovered in the same field in Australia as the opal known as ‘Olympic Australis’, which weighs 17,000 carats and is on permanent display in the auction house. Altman. The Olympic was among the stones that John Altmann and his partner Rudi Cherny acquired in 1956, according to Altmann’s company.
The auction company asked for a minimum bid of $125,000 at Sunday’s auction. Cline said it was a “calculated risk” with the company taking what it sees as a conservative approach in hopes of attracting the most attention.
“We were honored to host the auction of this one-of-a-kind specimen,” Cline said after the auction.
The sale includes a smaller piece of the opal that von Brandt said his father cut to be worn or displayed.
This story has been updated to correct that the opal sold for $143,750 based on an updated figure from the auction house to include the buyer’s premium.
Associated Press reporter Michelle A. Monroe contributed to this report from Phoenix.